Speech Pathology Associates


Autism / PDD

Research now suggests that children as young as 1 year old can show signs of autism. The most important thing you can do as a parent or caregiver is to learn the early signs of autism and understand the typical developmental milestones your child should be reaching at different ages. Please look over the following list. If you have any concerns about your child's development, don't wait.

Speak to your doctor about screening your child for autism. While validated screening for autism starts only as young as 16 months, the best bet for younger children is to have their development screened at every well visit with a highly validated developmental screening tool. If your child does have autism, early intervention may be his or her best hope.

Watch For The Red Flags Of Autism

In clinical terms, there are a few “absolute indicators,” often referred to as “red flags,” that indicate that a child should be evaluated. For a parent, these are the “red flags” that your child should be screened to ensure that he/she is on the right developmental path. If your baby shows any of these signs, please ask your pediatrician or family practitioner for an immediate evaluation:

  • No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
  • No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter
  • No babbling by 12 months
  • No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months
  • No words by 16 months
  • No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months
  • Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age

Diagnosis And Treatment

When navigating the referral process, parents and pediatric professionals must work together to pursue the healthiest developmental outcome for a child at risk of a developmental disorder. This includes referrals to, and follow up for, the following: Early Intervention, the local school district, specialists, insurance, diagnostic testing, and working towards “what’s next?”

For Parents

Make an appointment with your child's doctor. After your physician confirms the presence of a developmental delay or disorder, parents have to contend with a range of emotions: grief, disbelief, anger, hope and fear. Coming to terms with your child’s developmental delay or disorder can be a lengthy process. While each parent responds differently, many parents recall that the first steps towards self-education and action proved crucial not only for the child’s well-being, but for their own.

Read about Using The Listening Program® in the Treatment of Autism and Unlocking Potential - TLP for Autism Spectrum Disorders

The only magical formula for your child’s best outcome is an active and involved parent. Spend time with your child. You don’t need a degree in psychology to help your child. Don’t hesitate to ask your child’s physician for help. And don’t be afraid to lean on your family and friends. Beyond love and acceptance, you will find that creativity and persistence are invaluable tools.

Speaking to parents of children diagnosed with disabilities, one theme is clear: act now.

“I had to start moving forward before I even accepted the diagnosis. I thought, “my son will prove you wrong’ and I made the appointments with that intent.”

“I didn’t realize that everything took so long: specialists had waiting lists, it took a while to even schedule an evaluation. I wish I’d started earlier.”

“The best advice I have: talk to another parent who has a child with developmental issues. They can help you navigate the maze, and can give you the encouragement you need to move forward.”

Once a parent is ready to move forward, it may be helpful to start a small notebook where everything can be recorded: a schedule of upcoming appointments; names of specialists; contact numbers for community resources; detailed notes from conversations with clinicians; questions to ask at the next appointment; notes on your child’s progress.

One of the first lists for your notebook might be the following “to do” list, which includes six crucial steps to take after a child has been identified as having developmental delays:

  • Follow up with initial contacts from Early Intervention
  • If your child is 30 months or older, contact your local school district
  • Request a referral, and/or research and contact specialists
  • Begin the process of understanding your insurance plan
  • Make appointments for further diagnostic testing
  • Start to consider “What’s Next?” -- what else do I need to know?

Read about Using The Listening Program® in the Treatment of Autism and Unlocking Potential - TLP for Autism Spectrum Disorders

Much of this information has been provided by First Signs, Inc.